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La Liga: Real Madrid beat Alaves late to leapfrog Barca (for now)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ PL PREVIEW: Arsenal’s post-Emery era begins; Man United host Villa ]

Alaves 1-2 Real Madrid

Without ever hitting their full stride through the season’s first 14 games, Real Madrid have managed to keep pace with Barcelona to set up what should be a thrilling La Liga title race over the next 24 weeks. Zinedine Zidane’s side survived yet another scare on Saturday and came away with a narrow victory away to 14th-place Alaves. With Barca still to play Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Real Madrid sit atop the table with a three-point advantage.

Sergio Ramos headed Los Blancos into the lead in the 52nd minute, but it was quickly erased when Lucas Perez converted from the penalty spot in the 65th.

Madrid’s winner was anything but pretty, but the ball crossed the goal line and that’s the only fact that matters. Luka Modric lofted the ball high into the penalty area and Isco got his head to it barely a yard off the goal line, but Fernando Pacheco made a stellar save only to see the ball roll across the face of goal to Dani Carvajal, who poked it over the line for 2-1 in the 69th minute.

Valencia 2-1 Villarreal

Speaking of surviving, Valencia survived a chaotic derby affair with Villarreal at the Mestalla Stadium to climb back into the top-six.

Jasper Cillessen denied Gerard Moreno from the penalty spot in the 14th minute, but that was just the start of a truly wild affair. Sergio Asenjo made a series of spectacular saves to maintain Villarreal’s clean sheet in the first half. His magic ran out shortly after halftime, though, and in hard-to-swallow fashion. Maxi Gomez played an otherworldly curling ball over the top to find Rodrigo Moreno inside the penalty area, and Moreno got the slightest of touches on the ball and managed to recover the ball on the other side of Asenjo for a quick finish from a tight angle.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who’s on loan from Fulham after the player and club’s disastrous lone season in the Premier League, hammered home from near the penalty spot just five minutes later. 19-year-old Ferran Torres bagged the winner in the 70th minute, rifling a waist-high bouncing ball past Asenjo for his second league goal this season.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 4-1 Eibar
Mallorca 1-2 Real Betis

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Sevilla v. Leganes — 6 a.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao v. Granada — 8 a.m. ET
Espanyol v. Osasuna — 10 a.m. ET
Getafe v. Levante — 12:30 p.m. ET
Atletico Madrid v. Barcelona — 3 p.m. ET

Court again prevents La Liga game from being played in U.S.

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MADRID — The Spanish league lost another battle against the Spanish soccer federation on Friday and won’t be allowed to take a regular-season match to the United States, at least not for now.

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The game between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid next month was called off after the league lost a court battle against the federation.

A Madrid commercial court denied an injunction to force the federation to approve the staging of the match abroad, which is part of the league’s strategy to expand internationally.

The league hasn’t fully given up, though, and its “unfair competition” case against the federation will continue despite Friday’s ruling. It contends the federation has no right to block the match and is acting anti-competitively.

The league hopes to be able to stage a regular-season game in the U.S. beginning in February, when the full case will be heard.

“Staging an official La Liga match abroad is part of a long-term La Liga strategy for international growth,” the league said in a statement. “We hope that from February forth LaLiga will be able to organize an official match beyond Spanish borders.”

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The league has a 15-year partnership with the group Relevent to promote soccer and bring games to the United States.

“Bringing clubs closer to their global fans represents a significant opportunity to connect with them and to continue working to increase La Liga’s followers around the world,” the league said. “This international growth leads to benefits for the clubs, their players, their fans, La Liga as a whole, Spanish football and the brand of Spain.”

Last season, the league unsuccessfully tried to take a match between Girona and Barcelona to Florida, an attempt also hindered by the federation’s lack of approval. Barcelona pulled out citing a lack of agreement between those involved.

The league complained the federation opposed the games but at the same time is organizing its own matches abroad, like the four-team Spanish Super Cup that it will host in January in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish Super Cup also was played abroad last season, in Morocco.

The federation argued it was different to play a league game abroad because it would affect the other 18 clubs participating in the competition. Real Madrid and Barcelona had reportedly expressed their opposition to the game in the U.S. because it would be played in a neutral venue, thus favoring Atletico, the away team.

Instead, the game will be played as originally scheduled in Villarreal, an industrial city of 50,000 a short drive from Valencia.

The dispute is the latest between league president Javier Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales, two outspoken figures who have been at odds over a series of issues involving Spanish soccer.

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The federation said in Thursday’s court hearing the league’s attempt to play abroad breached FIFA regulations and could hurt Spain’s bid with Portugal to host the 2030 World Cup.

Although FIFA’s permission for the game is not mandatory, president Gianni Infantino last season expressed his concerns when the league tried to play the game between Girona and Barcelona near Miami.

Villarreal season ticket holders would have been compensated for losing out on a home game. They could have received a 40 percent discount on their next season ticket purchase, free entry, and travel for up to 3,000 fans to the away game at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium or a paid-for trip to Miami for up to 600 people.

Similar compensation packages were offered to Girona fans last season, and many had already accepted them when the game was called off.

Spanish court to decide fate of Spanish league game in USA

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition.

The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days.

More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

[READ: La Liga wants to move Villarreal-Atletico Madrid to Miami]

Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

La Liga wants Villarreal v. Atletico Madrid to be played in Miami

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The Spanish league is trying again to take a regular-season game to Miami, despite abandoning plans last season after facing opposition from other soccer bodies.

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The league says it has asked the Spanish soccer federation to allow Villarreal’s home game against Atletico Madrid on Dec. 6 to be moved to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

The federation last season wouldn’t approve playing Barcelona’s game against Girona in Miami in January.

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Spanish league president Javier Tebas says, “We hope that this time we can carry out this positive action for everyone, as other leagues like the NFL or the NBA do when they stage matches overseas.”